WORLD SPEED POKER CHAMPIONSHIPS IN ESTONIA
Keith Sloan is a well respected Tournament Director from down-under who, like all Aussies, has mastered the art of subtlety. So it was no surprise that to launch his 'World Speed Poker Championships' he promised uncompromising paint ball sessions, and a bevy of beautiful models (disguised as 'clock' girls). As usual, I fell for his patter, hook, line and sinker, and made my way over to Estonia.
The paint ball was a bluff, but the bevy of beauties was not. They were not the only pleasant welcome in Estonia though. The event was held at 'The Monte Carlo' casino, which was right next door to my Scandic Hotel. To add to this convenience, they kindly placed a sauna behind the shower in my room. (I may have even lost weight on the trip!) Generally though, the thing I noticed most was the attitude of the taxi drivers, hotel staff and bar staff. Everybody was nice, pleasant, and always smiling. What a refreshing change from Blighty. Even the bar staff were pleasant when I couldn't speak the local lingo! Errrr, just like Paris?
Most players had got exactly the wrong impression from the title of 'The World Speed Poker Championship'. We thought the word 'speed' referred to the structure, and that the event may be a bit of a 'crapshoot'. This could not have been further from the truth. Each player was only allowed 15 seconds to act. So when we had 30 minutes for any given level, instead of getting the normal 10 to 15 hands in the half hour, we did in fact get approximately 40 hands in half an hour. So there was in fact more play in the tournament than usual. (So I have no excuse for finishing a lowly 7th).
The speed of the game, combined with playing short handed, brought an extra level of intensity to the play. There were no stoppages in play (a second dealer would shuffle a second pack while the current hand was in play), no concentration gaps, and the five minute toilet breaks every hour were most welcome. The funny thing was that when all the players got into 'the flow' of the game, most decisions were instantaneous, and unfortunately, this meant that the clock girls were rarely used. Although the models may have got a little bored, the Players didn't. Every player who took part in the tournament loved it.
I should add that the winner was a very nice chap from Norway: Henning Granstad. He played an excellent balanced aggressive game, and was thought of as a worthy winner by everyone I spoke to. Yes, the best player won. How unusual?
Hopefully in the future, normal live tournaments will find some way of incorporating a player decision time clock. It will certainly help the TV Producers. Not to mention the poor old viewers. Of course, this has been standard practice, and one of the great advantages of Internet tournaments, since their inception... Look out Carlo and Surinder, this is the future...